Sep 232016


Dear Editor,

My thanks to Mr. Bethune for taking the time to comment on the ZIKA crisis. I must note that I disagree with nearly everything that he put forward. I’ll do my best to keep it brief and to respond to each point, paragraph by paragraph.

First and most important: ZIKA is on the march. As this is written there are at least 874 cases in Florida. One out of 10 persons who has been tested has been found to be positive. At least 90 pregnant women are known to have been infected. On Saturday, 9/17, we learned that the ZIKA transmission zone in Miami Beach had tripled. It now covers nearly all of that island. That decision expanded the zone to an area more than half a big as Key West. Now there are at least 40 ZIKA cases in Miami Dade, 4 in Monroe…and that’s only the cases that we know of.

ZIKA is not just at our door, it is in our community, The two counties immediately north of us have the highest number of cases overall, both local and foreign transmission. Most of our weekend tourists come from Broward and Miami-Dade. If any person who is infected with ZIKA has been bitten by an AE mosquito here in Monroe, then ZIKA is on the march throughout our community.

The AE mosquito is called the “rat” of mosquitos” because of the difficulty of diminishing its numbers. Rejecting any safe and efficacious methodology of diminishing the numbers of the AE mosquito is a fools errand.

Mr. Bethune suggests that travelers be interrogated and tested for ZIKA prior to their admission to our shores. That is a fools errand. Most of those infected have no idea that they are infected. Just for a moment imagine interrogating every person who is enroute to the USA, or the Keys and/or testing them for ZIKA. Perhaps Mr. Bethune would have us set up check points at Key Largo. His suggestion is preposterous..

Unfortunately Mr. Bethune found it necessary to suggest that illegality in the form of “backroom money deals” was in play in the decision making concerning the use of GMM to combat ZIKA. If Mr. Bethune has the courage of his convictions, or any information whatsoever that would tend to prove such allegations, he has an ethical and moral duty to either take his information to the authorities or to make it public. You can bet the farm that he will not so do.

Mr. Bethune claims that real estate interests are not at the forefront of trying to prevent the use of GMM, a safe and efficacious method of killing AE mosquitoes. He is simply wrong. Ed Swift. Mila De Meir. Barry Wray. All of the foregoing are serious players in the real estate industry. They are the leaders of the anti GMM effort. Swift has threatened legal and political retribution to any FKMCB member who votes to use GMM’s in his ‘hood. Why? He told the FKMCB that it would harm his property values. Swift wrote that he cares not where the GMM release is made, just as long as it is not in his ‘hood. De Meir, Wray, and several other real estate professionals are fighting tooth and claw to stop the use of GMM or the use of spraying to halt the spread of ZIKA. They are so fanatical in their resistance that they have even interjected themselves in Miami Beach’s efforts to combat ZIKA. They manage FaceBook groups. But they block anyone who disagrees with their message. They apparently have so little faith in their message that they refuse to debate.

Real estate interests have launched a slick and professional social media campaign specifically designed to preclude using GMM and a number of other safe methods to halt the spread of the ZIKA. But they are all for the use of one particularly form of Wolbachia infection of the ZIKA mosquito.

The anti GMM campaign of fear is actually bizarre. The real estate “Save the Mosquitoes” group is fixated on using scenes from Jurassic Park to bolster their argument. They actually have suggested that the GMO process will flood us with “Frankenskeeters.” Look, GMO has been in use for decades. About 90% of our soy and corn are GMO’s. No sign of any walking corn stalks or of slithering soy beans. In fact the use of pesticides has decreased as crop yields have improved. There has also been an increase in the use of specific types of herbicides. In any event crop yields are up.

Genetic engineering is a part of your everyday life. In medicine genetic engineering is used to produce insulin, human growth hormones, follistim (for treating infertility), human albumin, monoclonal antibodies, antihemophilic factors, vaccines, and many other drugs. So far not a single person who has ingested GM food has been seen who has green skin, huge boots, and a bolt through their neck. Please remember that many lives, including that of my wife, have been saved and countless lives have been improved thanks to genetic engineering.

All of the arguments against the use of GMM to stop ZIKA center around key words. “What if” and “Maybe!” The arguments are fanciful and speculative. What cannot be denied is that GMM has already been used in Brazil, in Puerto Rico, and in Costa Rica. There have been no ill effects reliably reported in any of those efforts. Nor can it be denied, nor ignored that the FDA, and the Department of Health and Human Services have studied and examined the process and deemed it to be absent of “significant impact”. That study was accomplished in concert with the EPA and the CDC.

Significant: (def) “sufficiently great or important to be worthy of attention.”
Safe: (def) “: not able or likely to be hurt or harmed in any way : not in danger”

Translation: The GM process is safe!

The arguments against GMM are hysterical, yet there is a common thread. The opponents to genetic engineering seem to agree that using a specific bacteria, Wolbachia, to diminish the AE mosquito would accomplish the same goals as the use of GMM.

The most vocal of the proponents of this process are the real estate interests. By the by, the company, MosquitoMate is a relatively new concern and is seeking investors. Perhaps the the real estate interests who are so vehemently pushing this process are aware of that fact.

When contemplating this notion, there are a number of things to consider. First: in the best case scenario this particular Wolbachia process (there are at least 2 distinct means of using Wolbachia) could not be ready for use prior to April of 2017. GMM could be ready for use within a month of getting the go ahead.

Second: This particular form of the Wolbachia process is a fairly new concept. GMM has been around since 2002.

Third: The Wolbachia process has been under study by the Florida Keys Mosquito Control Board for some time. One board member actually took the time to investigate one of the Wolbachia processes while on a personal trip to Australia. He visited the facilities and conferred with the developers of the process.

Nonetheless, the board came to the conclusion that the use of GMM was the quickest, safest, most effective, and the most cost efficient process to be used to prevent ZIKA from infecting our community.

Finally, we know that there have been at least two small scale US applications of this Wolbachia process, but we have seen no results as to it’s efficacy, nor have we seen any proof that the Wolbachia bacteria is safe if it were to be transmitted to humans by a mosquito bite.

We do know that the approval process for the release of the Wolbachia process is easier than is the approval process for the GMM process. We do know that the Wolbachia process is now being tested in Clovis, Ca. As yet we have seen no results of that test which was slated to last for 10 weeks.

Friends, we’ve got to stop protecting the mosquitos that carry ZIKA, Yellow Fever, Dengue, and Chickungunya and start using GMM and whatever other effective weapons that we have in our arsenal.

Walter Lagraves
Big Pine Key

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 September 23, 2016  Posted by at 1:02 am Issue #185, Letter to the Editor  Add comments

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